Posted on 29 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Magical Girl Raising Project

Calamity Mary dying was pretty expected and the death that followed was equally something that was bound to happen. Though having a third death was not quite what I expected. Considering the small line in one of the halfway blurbs about Nana having some other intentions I thought she might have more to her than one would think. Sadly it turns out she was as boring as she appears when she commits suicide after Weiss’s death. I admit that I didn’t notice that she used Weiss’s scarf as a noose, that as a nice detail. Word of mouth say that the anime changed how the other two died a bit as Mary wasn’t supposed to get a shuriken to the head. In the light novel it seems that Ripple through a window at her which Mary shot up. However thanks to Ripples ability, the shards of glass kept flying towards Mary, turning her into a human pincushion. I don’t really get just way this was changed as it seems like a far more interesting end to the fight.

I don’t think it had to due with animation constraints as they still ended up using the glass anyway and this series has not been shy with showing gore either. It does make me wonder if the lack of impact these deaths have is related to minor changes on the studio’s part. The second change was Top Speeds death as while she was killed the same way both times, in the light novel she was helping Ripple up when she got attacked. Which certainly makes more sense as I really don’t see h0w Ripple didn’t spot Swim Swim behind Top Speed. I am not certain as to how i feel about this particular death as it is rather tasteless. Top speed was one of the more likable characters in the group and the big twist of her being pregnant being used for shock factor doesn’t sit well with me. It’s like a dead baby joke, morally outrageous and shocking but immature and cheap.

Made all the more cruel when you consider that if Swim Swim knew about Nana’s suicide, she wouldn’t have attacked Top Speed. As Swim is the logical type she would see it would be not worth it. Fav fixes this soon enough by going “tee hee, turns out you lot are using more magic than expected so the number is now four instead of eight”. At this point Fav is not hiding his intentions whatsoever, it’s clear he wants the killing game to continue. With this new rule three more girls have to drop out of the running and I doubt both Cranberry and Swim Swim are making it out of this. Swim seems to be making Cranberry her next target and considering her ability she would make for a formidable foe. One thing I found odd this episode was just how little an effect killing Mary had on Top Speed and Ripple.

Mary was hardly a saint but I would have expected the fact that Ripple killed a person would have a more somber effect than “Woohoo! Good job!” But I do see potential in a battle between Swim Swim and Ripple. After all she’s bound to come after her with a vengeance but what will happen when she kills Swim and finds a little girl lying dead in front of her. I think congratulations would be far from her mind then. Though Snow White taking down Swim would be far more devastating, that is of course if she can fight her. This episode did show that her mind reading power has other uses besides finding people in danger. It did reveal that Tama believes she’s in over her head so she could be a potential ally in the future. Though for now it looks like the remaining angel has found out how to kill Alice.

Posted on with categories: Aquarion Evol, Currently Watching:, Drifters

It looks to be a trend of drifters to follow a high action episode with a cooling down period. Though it does leave me with little to comment on. Scipio meeting Kanno and neither being able to understand each other lead to what may be one of the few jokes that actually hit with this series. Albeit one of the jokes that requires some knowledge of world war II to get. It certainly got a big smile from me though Kanno seems like the type of character who is perpetually pissed off. Meanwhile Hannibal has gone senile without Scipio around to keep him focused which makes me wonder why Murasaki didn’t pick him up from a earlier time in his life. Though considering how he reacts to Toyohisa it could be that his senile status is a just an act though for what purpose I couldn’t tell. The dwarves look to be next on this liberation campaign and I really wonder when it became commonplace that elves live in forests using bows and that Dwarfs are underground and are great metalworkers. In some ways Tolkien cursed the fantasy genre by giving it a standard template.

Abe no seimei brings up a certain concern I had regarding the drifters in that none of them seem to really care about the effect they are having in this world. I don’t quite agree on his assessment that Hitler was trying to help in his own way but considering that Hitler was after his time it safe to assume that Abe doesn’t know just what Hitler has done. Oda’s clearly lays out that he has plans that go beyond just beating the ends and Abe more or less has to go along with it as there really isn’t a better way to defeat the ends. However it’s clear that the Drifters and ends are altering this world beyond repair. The ends have followed with the old saying that if life gives you lemons….kill everything. Meanwhile the Drifters are introducing concepts much earlier than intended, with Hitler creating a second WWII germany and Oda pushing to create modern firearms which would throw the power scale all out of whack. Though we do have the issue that just because Butch and Sundance use guns, that does not mean they know how to make them.

They seem to be getting there though as Oda is making gunpowder and it seems the transvestite count will help with creating the primer later down the line. But man, Oda’s reaction when the cowboys started telling him about modern firearms and how he knew it would change everything about war. So both the heroes and the villains don’t actually care what happens to the world  and for that matter I am thinking that Murasaki and EASY don’t care much either. We don’t actually know why they started this game in the first place but considering the overly familiar approach EASY takes with Murasaki it could be that this game is just a matter of passing time for them. In truth perhaps the Ends are not the actual endgame of this series but instead the final bosses are these two. Who treat humans as mere playthings to entertain themselves.

Posted on 27 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Flip Flappers

Yay, I’ve reached 100th post here at this site, and if you can probably tell from my still-clumsy writing this is also my first 100 blogging ever. This isn’t much to be completely frank but it’s a milestone for me nonetheless, as there had been a fair amount of commitment for the last 8 months back from my first post. I’d like to give my special gratitude to Aidan who figuratively pick me up from the street and let me run loose here. I’ve enjoyed writing these so far and don’t plan to give it up anytime soon (meaning ya’all still stuck with me for a long, long time) so here’s hoping the curses of RL commitment and anime burn out won’t get to me soon. Thanks for having me here guys.

Alright, sentimental time is over (after all, sentimentality is only for farewell), and let get to what you actually come here for: Flip Flappers. This week, our girls were sucked from a swimming PE class (I think it’s an excuse for the girls to wear swimsuits the entire episode) to the metropolis Pure Illusion world which again is striking and impressive on its own settings. Again, what do we have in this Pure Illusion world this week? A metropolis city, was built entirely by one man (Totalitarianism?), no citizen actually living there except for those birds that shoot laser. The man himself is half the size of normal human (haha, totally randomness) but these buildings are in their actual sizes. Then those birds and the giant robots come literally from the sky to cause havoc to the city (they are created by the fragments by the way. What really are those fragments anyway?); and of course; mecha-robots. The metropolis setting allows the extensive use of neon light, pink colors that I never get tired of (while at it, check out the cartoon Moonbeam City which have that exact aesthetic neon retro style, but unfortunately bugged down by their dumb story). Well, the setting alone is on par with the show’s most imaginative worlds for that alone this episode is already worth checking out.

Damn, Flip Flappers. In the very beginning we billed you as a magical girl show with some sort of fairy tale-inspired, and what did you give us this week? A metropolis city with some random mecha robots fighting? I am giving up to even guess what you would do next. Not only the show had fun to spend extra details to those battles: the fighting looks gorgeous and carries a lot of energy; they also have extra fun when it comes to designing and naming those level-up robots: PapinaKing, Yapico Boy, Great Pacoya. Stay true to the term “adventure”, the show freely hops from one genre to another each episode. So far, we’ve encountered them experiencing with dark children fantasy, action, horror, psychological and now mecha genre. That free style allows this show to bend the rules and bring a lot of refreshing ideas and creativity to the table, and while I consider this episode an outsider from the rest of Flip Flappers episodes in terms of theme (there’s no identity theme this week, but the coming-of-age theme is still going strong), this episode still fits into the show’s canon of exploring those self-contained worlds while tackling multiple genres the show come across.

Yayaka obviously become the true star in this episode and her motive becomes more and more in favors for the wellbeing of Cocona (I’m hesitant to put Papika here, as she and Papika get along so well just like water and oil). For all of her coldness tsundere appearance, she deeply cares for the girls and this episode forced her to be honest with her feeling. I don’t mind she joining up with the two girls at all (Man. That Great Pacoya is ridiculously awesome) and next episode it seems like we will have a little bit of flashback between Cocona and Yayaka which I can’t wait for it. Not only Yayaka, but Cocona also grows a lot this episode. She’s always afraid that her actions could bring consequences to the real world. But by reflecting through the old man’s frustration that he would lose himself if he loses what is precious to him, Cocona’s now willing to take actions to protect her precious things as well.

Under the effect of fragment, Papika again mutters the name “Mimi”. I was overlooked last week, but it seems more likely now that name is a connection to “Shard of Mimi” AKA the fragments. So we might after all have the long lost search for love from Dr Salt, and that Mimi is somehow shattered into amorphous fragments so Dr Salt had to collect them again? Speculation aside, I am more sure now that Mimi and Cocona’s dream have some connections to each other. But no, I’m not going to put more thoughts on that because a) I know the show will mind-screwing all my expectation somehow and b) I enjoy the show simply because it brings me something different each week, so as long as the show pleases me on that front I’d die a happy man.

Posted on 26 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sound! Euphonium 2

This week, the show delivers one of my favorite Eupho moments: as Kumiko and Reina quietly listen to the Euphonium CD, enjoying that little moments when the music is playing with drama or conflict yet to come. This little moment and the firework sequence back in the first episode are Sound Eupho at their best. They always excel at portraying characters’ little gestures and expressive reactions and those scenes allow our characters to sit back and breathe and let the atmosphere washes over them. While I don’t necessary disagree with their choice to focus on heighten drama and more in-depth characters this season, because we do need to know them a little deeper after 2 seasons, I do miss those little moments that the first season achieved so effortlessly.

So the big elephant in the room has finally addressed, as Mamiko told her parents that she wanted to quit college because she wants to be a beautician. She blames her parents for putting up pressure that eventually she had to study what she didn’t want to, moreover she was forced to quit the music band and now she just needs a break to all that. The way her strict father deals with the problems meaning that he won’t take no for an answer in everything he wants her to do; which is kind of suck. He does make a point when he said that it’s her who decided to take college so don’t put a blame game back to him, but that again is too harsh on his eldest daughter. But that family drama eventually points to the very relationship between Mamiko and Kumiko. If you notice carefully, this is the very first time that the passive Kumiko actually raises her voice to someone, because she freaking cares about her sister. Of course Kumiko doesn’t really understand her sister’s struggle, but it comes the other way as well: Mamiko doesn’t understand why her sister got so irritated at her decision like that. As this episode shows us many intimate moments when Kumiko were young, her sister was her inspiration to get into music in the first place and all Kumiko want is to play music with her sister. It’s only slightly hinted this week, but I can see that after her sister quitted the music band, it killed the joy to play music out of Kumiko (remember that in the beginning of season 1, Kumiko doesn’t want anything to do with music again) until she got swept up by the inspiration of Taki-sensei.

It’s a joy for me to be able to see Aoi back again this season, even with just a passing sequence like this one. Truth be told but I always found Aoi’s situation back in the first season the most resonant to me. I had briefly discussed this before but if I were Taki-sensei, I would think really carefully before pushing the music band to competition-focus. For me, it always seems too convenient for him to just let the band decided for themselves, then he just proceed to push the goal and cut all other craps. I know he wouldn’t mind if the band choose to just have fun playing music, but my main issues remain this: he should assist them to know all the consequences, all the pros and cons of these options are, because eventually if he pushes the band squarely into one direction, someone will eventually be pulled further away from that wheel. And that someone was Aoi because she can’t afford to have more commitment to music, but what get me the most was her comment later on to Kumiko that she never really regretted leaving the band. It all comes down to the decision we made and I know she made a right choice in her situation. But what is wrong with joining the band just for the sake of enjoying it as a spare time? Her role in the story, plus Azusa’s (the girl who plays in marching band in other school) gives Sound Eupho much more depth, because it adds another dimension to those who chase different pathways from our music band.

Although not actually appearing this week, Asuka’s mother air still lingers around this episode. Asuka has been kept things to herself so that her issue won’t be a bother to the band; but I’m still waiting, patiently, for herself to crack. She’s performing that happy persona so damn well that others don’t know if they should be happy or worry. She invites Kumiko over her house, which is a very abnormal sign, but that night might be the night that we understand her conflict in full extend. The show has been implied many times this week and it further confirms what I picked up last week: It seems like Asuka’s father is an Eupho professional named Masakazu Shindo (the girls even confirmed that it sounds like Asuka’s) and judging by Asuka’s attitude (the band comes first, cut the drama bullshit. But then again she seems happy just to play the instrument and doesn’t care much about the band drama), it seems that Asuka got inspired by her father. The reason I bought it up is because if that’s the case there is an equivalence between Asuka’s story and Kumiko’s own family drama: as both Asuka and Kumiko starting to play music as an admiration to someone, and then keep hanging on to the music even though that inspirations are gone. The strictness between the two families who pressure Asuka and Kumiko’s sister to quit the band to focus on what they think is better for their own child is another point of reference. Anyways, I’m pretty sure next week we will follow Kumiko to Asuka’s house to witness a rematch between Asuka and her mother and I hope this time we can really see what that girl is truly thinking about.

Posted on 25 November 2016 with categories: Game Reviews

The Disgaea series has been one that has caught my interest from time to time when shifting between games. It’s artstyle is certainly its most distinctive feature at a glance but for someone like myself the real draw of the series was it’s similarities to one of the most shining yet overlooked gems of the Final Fantasy franchise. That being of course, Final Fantasy Tactics. Disgaea however promised more, more levels, more customization, more content, more of absolutely everything. But with more comes the thing which is likely to keep many from trying it, game length. My entire playtime with Disgaea clocked in at 42 hours and I was focusing on only the main story. Taking into account the series rather famous post game content and extra features you could spend double, if not triple the time I spent on it. Disgaea is certainly a game that gives you your money’s worth and if made today perhaps it would have as much ridiculous DLC and collector’s editions as Watchdogs 2 has. Oh yes the days when you could have extra content in a game and not have to fork over a fiver. Anyway for this review I will be covering the Steam PC release of Disgaea opposed of its Playstation 2, DS and PSP counterparts. Now the PC version had a rocky start as on release the port had dozens of problems. Graphical glitches, crashes, frame drops, Lack of resolution settings…honestly it was a bit of a mess. However in recent times the port has been fixed up and as least on my rig it ran with no real problems. Only real problem I encountered was the game crashing if you tried to start it when the monitor was connected via HDMI to a TV but in recent patches that issue has been resolved. To avoid this for Disgaea 2 being released in January of next year they are currently Beta testing it by giving out free copies for testing purposes.(Sadly the submission date to be a Beta tester has passed so I will have to buy it instead) Considering that I think Disgaea 2 should have a much more favorable reception. But well moving on to the review.

Getting into Disgaea I had a feeling I wouldn’t be playing the games for the story and from word on forums apparently this game has the best story of the franchise. If this is the best story the series has to offer I say it’s truly not impressive. It’s not bad but the focus is mostly on humor with some small attempts to tug heartstrings from time to time. It’s a passable JRPG story but not a very memorable one. Part of the reason is that Disgaea holds a kind of anime episodic format which even has the female sidekick narrating next episode previews which are pretty much complete lies endorsing her as the main Heroine. As such the story is divided up into episodes which generally have three to four battles in them a piece. The plot deals with the demon son of the Overlord of the underworld attempting to take his position on the throne while fighting off opposition for the throne. You would think this would be the end goal of the game but halfway through he pretty much achieves this end and instead humans are introduced in the form of three heroes invading hell. These characters are fine though the main gimmick of the guy being a Flash Gordan parody gets tiresome quickly. This wouldn’t be all that bad but the second half of the story almost exclusively focuses on these humans and a war between Netherworld and Earth. Then in the last episode angels take center stage as the final boss. In a sense we have three main story arcs with some small episodic side stories in between. The main theme seems to be about a trainee angel Flonne helping to teach the overlord’s son Laharl to love which yeah is trit and cliche. Best moment of the story really was this angel Trainee being sent down to assassinate Laharl but failing hard because she was too polite and kind. Hearing her say “Hi, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m an Assassin.” to Laharl did make me chuckle.

Let us talk about the meat of the game, the gameplay and boy, I knew going into this that this would be a grind heavy game but they really were not kidding. Gameplay in Disgaea plays much like a Fire Emblem game, with a grid like level layout where you direct up to 14 characters to move and attack enemies. It’s fairly light strategy wise as most battles are decided depending on the levels and it really just becomes a matter of using the skill best suited to hitting the most enemies. Out of the 42 hours I spent on this I could be fairly certain on saying that 30 of those hours were spent grinding. In Disgaea you can level up everything, and I do mean everything. Par for the course you can level up characters but use spells and you level those up, use skills and you level those up, you can level up weapon mastery, you can level up weapons, you level up specialists, you can level your weapons and items using item world, you can level up you standing in the dark assembly, you can level up shops if you buy from them and quite frankly anything that can be leveled, will be leveled. I said in my fairy Fencer review that if you have too many systems in place for getting strong, it becomes harder to balance the game for a good challenge and boy does Disgaea suffer from the same problem. Let me be blunt and say in Disgaea you are either underpowered or overpowered with rare times of ever being in between. The biggest challenge you can get can be from how geo panels(Places which grant bonuses to the player/enemy standing on them) which can really give you some painful levels to get through. There is even a level where everywhere is filled with panels that make people invincible so the only way to win is the lead/throw enemies to the one panel that doesn’t have the invincibility effect. I made a particular mistake one time were I accidentally made the entire field of play invincible, hereby making my characters and the enemy impossible to beat. That was certainly a facepalm moment.

The grind is the name of the game but if there is a major failing of Disgaea it’s just how poor a job it does with teaching you it’s systems. The overall interface is fairly clumsy seeing as you can’t actually view how close a character is to a level up or even how much experience they have.(You can see total experience in a separate status window but that doesn’t mention how close to a level up.) Some of the most important options are hidden under it’s awkward menus and the game really only tells you the barest minimum to get through it. Now you are informed that you can finish DIsgaea with minimal knowledge and this is true, but doing so will leave you oblivious to the game’s finer points with its mechanics as well as missing out on features which could make your life a whole lot easier. I find it rather annoying that so much detail was given on the nature of Geo panels and how to cause a chain attack with them when you will most certainly never actually use it. Yet you are given barely any info on how the Dark Assembly works or the nature of Specialists. There is info present with an NPC throwing out answers to how they work but this is akin to learning English by reading a dictionary. Just try reading over these lines several times it just won’t hit home how it all works until you fiddle with it yourself. To figure out how a number of things work I had to jump to the Disgaea wiki just to get my bearings. Even then I only came to realise about Specialists when I reached near the end of the game. Basically you would find weapons have weird names attached to them like Firefighter, teacher, gladiator and for the majority of the game i had no idea what these things even were. Only late into the game did I find out that all these things were essentially code for passive stat bonuses and by using item world you can double these stat bonuses and even move them between weapons.

What makes these so important is that there is a specialist which can double or even triple the amount of exp a character gets from enemies. In a game about grinding, that aspect is critical. Another thing it fails to tell you about is the master and servant system which is briefly mentioned but chances are that you will have no idea how it works. This is likely the best aspect of Disgaea as it gives a ridiculous level of customization to your characters. Here’s how it works, using your characters you can create other characters which are those characters servants. masters and servants don’t really differ all that much except in one aspect. The master can use and learn all the skills of the servant if placed beside them. So as an example, let’s say you have a zombie character whom you want to give healing spells. Well you use the dark assembly to create a priest using that zombie character. You level up the priest gain most of the healing spells and then you place that priest beside your zombie in combat. Then the zombie can use all the healing spells the priest has learned and if the zombie uses a healing spell enough times to level up, that healing spell is permanently added to that zombies skills. Meaning that regardless of whether priest is around or not, that zombie can cast healing spells on anyone. So making use of this system you can have Priests with martial arts abilities, dragons who can cast spells, mages who can use swords. Almost anything is possible and it certainly is fun mixing and matching to give a character the skills you want. The downside is that to power up the character you want, you need to create and level up another character whom you don’t care about. Which is troublesome when you want a mage who can use all types of magic and find that fire, wind, ice and star magic is split up between four characters.

So what’s Item world you may ask? Well in Disgaea each item, be it weapon, armour or usage, can be leveled up to be more powerful. To do this you go to Item world which is similar to a gauntlet of battles. Think of being at the top of a tower with several floors filled with enemies and the only way to progress down a floor is to either kill the enemies on that floor or find the stairs. Thus we have a pretty big source of most of your grinding as well as the most tedious aspect of Disgaea as a whole. Grinding isn’t exactly a praiseworthy aspect of gaming, mainly because it is used as a means to pad out gametime. However depending on how it’s done it doesn’t have to be a unpleasant experience. Keep it speedy and relatively easy with generous pace of reward and grinding can even be a fun aspect of a game. But here is where item world flatters. Item world is slow, time consuming and can be a massive pain at times. Reasons as to why is in part due to the randomly generated terrain of the floors which doesn’t always make the level player friendly. Nothing is unbeatable but it can make some levels that force you to throw characters all about the place just to reach the stairs. There were times I groaned when the game spawned the exit in such an awkward place and put a specialist on a platform to far to throw to or attack. To make matters worse, you cannot leave item world until you at least get ten floors down(Or use a genji’s exit which can only be obtained by going ten floors down in a item.) and it takes at least thirty to forty minutes to get down that far.

If you have the patience of a god you can go down up to hundred floors if you wish to give the item a serious boost in power but I never saw it as worth it. This mode is one of the best ways of powering up your characters but the complete slog of it just made me avoid using it until absolutely necessary. But then let’s talk about something that really bugs me about this game and it’s how you level. Unlike regular RPGs experience isn’t given out evenly among the team when you complete a battle. Instead exp is given to whomever happens to land the last blow to an enemy. This is a big problem for three reasons. For one, leveling up healing units is a massive pain as they have to kill units to gain higher level healing spells. Another is that you end up relying on certain units a lot which makes them a much higher level than the rest of the team. Ultimately the stronger units get all the experience when the weaker units get jack which leads to grinding your weaker units up to an acceptable level as you progress through the game. Lastly you end up using your stronger units to weaken higher level enemies just so your weaker units can land the last blow and it is all too easy to accidently kill the enemy. Personally I would prefer if Disgaea took on a system like Suikoden where experience is divided evenly and allows weaker units to catch up quickly with stronger ones. It’s just one of the things that could make the grind of Disgaea a little less inconvenient.

Disgaea to me is a prototype for a much better game. Within it’s clunky systems and tedious aspects lies the groundwork for a fantastic strategy RPG. I know a lot of this review was essentially me complaining about various parts of it’s systems (I didn’t even get into things throwing enemies into other enemies to double their levels or the mostly useless bonus gauge.) but I did have fun with this game. It’s just that this fun comes with a big if attached to it. I am hesitant to recommend this game as you can have fun with it if you are willing to put up with it’s rough edges. It is my hope that with it’s sequel it could polish up it’s lesser aspects and cut down the tedium of grinding to present an immensely fun experience. From word of mouth it looks like that’s exactly what it’s going to do and certainly am most interested in seeing that. What’s better is that there isn’t any real connection storywise to this game it seems so people can jump into what could be a much more friendly gaming interface. I hope they bring more of the series to PC so I can see this system evolve and potentially produce an excellent title. As for this title alone I say if you are interested I would say to make sure you know what you are getting into and whether you have to patience to deal with it’s blemishes. If you can look past it’s faults you certainly will have something to keep you busy for quite a while.

Posted on 23 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Magical Girl Raising Project

Blessed be the peacemaker, for she ups the body count. I don’t think it’s a surprise that Winterprison ended up dying while protecting Nana. But it is surprising that she managed to take down one of the twin angels before getting taken out. All the more surprising considering that the angels didn’t get a flashback so hurray for unpredictability! Though considering that I don’t really care much about them for it to hold any emotional weight it was more just nice to have one of the annoying characters get taken out of the show. Swim Swim is someone I care about and it was fascinating how she went about this. Ultimately she was following Rulers advice in that the leader does the absolute minimum and leaves the majority of the work to a subordinate. It’s no doubt that Ruler was an incompetent leader with a superiority complex but it is fascinating in how Swim Swim holds her in such reverence and uses her image to become a better yet crueler leader than Ruler ever was. Really what is wrong with this girl, after all she wasn’t sad that one of the twin angels died, instead she was disappointed in herself because she thought that Ruler would have done it better.

It was a good plan but they didn’t quite count on Weiss not getting taken out immediately. There is the question of why the peaky angel didn’t transform to escape Weiss’s grasp, especially when Weiss was specifically telling her that if she transformed into Nana again she wouldn’t be able to hurt her even if she knew she was fake. But I think they can’t transform as long as someone is touching them. Evidence of this being how when the angels stabbed Weiss and she pulled out the knife and threw it into the air before she transformed back. Fear as well could be a factor. But if I was to question anyones actions here I would question Weiss’s. Taking into account her ability I think she could have killed all the team by using her wall ability to crush them against the ceiling.

Koyuki seems to see that Hardgore Alice isn’t her enemy though she doesn’t quite like her all the same. Calamity Mary on the other hand has gone full psycho. With both Weiss and the angel out that means we only have two more eliminations to end the battle royale. Judging by current circumstances I doubt Mary is going to come out of this alive. We have seen that Mary was an abusive housewife looking to bully the weak and Fav jumped to give her power straight away the demonic little monster that he is. I do quite like when he drops the cutesy act and his tone goes more malevolent. Mary’s background is pretty typical but it does make her reaction to Alice a little more interesting. Mary likes to bully those weaker than her and while she can overpower Alice, she cannot kill her. So this pretty much makes Alice unbullyable and something Mary cannot stand. This would give their next confrontation some real emotional weight that has been missing from all the fights up to now.

Watching this really makes me appreciate just how well Fate/Zero set up it’s own Battle Royale as it truly was a well structured plotline. With fight scenes in a story you generally have a few ways to go about it. One way is to go with spectacle and make a fight visually dynamic say like Drifters did with it’s action scenes this week. However Raising project just doesn’t have the kind of animation and artstyle to really deliver on a spectacle. Another method is to give a fight an emotional weight. In Fate/Zero the first episode was the worst but it did the groundwork of clearing up all the masters motivations and how they contrasted the other players. The very first fight of the series setup dynamics between the servant. Like Gilgamesh wanting to take down berserker, Berserker wanting to fight Saber, Saber needing to fight Lancer…each character had a counterpoint that made the fights compelling, be it through principles or personality. Raising project doesn’t have that. For the most part all the battles are random skirmishes between opponents who don’t actually know each other. Dues to our lack of information on their characters these fight just feel rather empty and ineffectual.

However we do have counterpoints forming within the cast. Nana has reason to fight Swim Swim, the peaky angel will likely want to attack Nana in revenge for her sister, Mary wants to get back at Alice, Koyuki will want to fight Cranberry after finding out she’s responsible for Souta’s death…these could make the battles more interesting but even then I think this shows big mistake was having such a massive cast of characters. The best battle royales make it a point to get you to care for the characters before killing them off. I am far too apathetic about the plight of these girls to get invested in the conflict. Of course this doesn’t mean we need more flashbacks as they are the lazy tool for character development. Instead having more meaningful character interaction and grown would be a better option. Ripple and Top Speeds relationship is a good example. Speaking of which, I really worry for top speed. We have got the full extent of her backstory which means that she is a prime target to be killed off.

Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Drifters

Considering this is the first clash the Drifters had with the ends things went rather smoothly. They managed to take one down and send the other one packing. This really is what Drifters is best act, balls to the wall action and insanity. Admittedly I wish the animation is better as it does rely on closeups to cut down on the animation needed. But I wholeheartedly admit that Ufotable may have spoiled me in regards to fight animation. This was indeed a spectacle of badassery and with the leader of the Octobrists bringing in the rest of the Drifter I think we could have some interesting interaction and culture clash as they bounce off each other. One thing I particularly loved was when Butch and Sundance brought out the Gatling Gun. The look on Oda’s face when he saw that gun was priceless. As a guy who heavily pushed firearms in Japan during his time, I most certainly think he will be interested in that beast of a weapon. Big problem is that upon gunning down Giles they did mention that they used up the last clip and i think it would be a major problem figuring out how to reproduce the bullets.

As for the battle itself, Toyohisa once more working with suicidal charges, Yoichi shoots arrows and Oda hangs back to lead the elves. If it’s one thing this episode pointed out it’s that the ends really do have a massive advantage in this battle. If they are all as hard to kill as Giles then they happen to have superpowers along with heavy invulnerability. Though the difference could be like Toyohisa said, the ends are now exactly professionals when it comes to combat. At least what I heard of Joan of Arc she wasn’t exactly famous for being a great fighter and Anastasia certainly has no real combat experience. That does seem to be the turning point in this battle, Easy is choosing tragic figures who have reason to hate the world while Murasaki is choosing Military commanders and strategists. The only thing that really give the ends the edge is there supernatural tendencies so Murasaki may be onto something here.

So Joan of Arc is defeated by our resident Samurai and upon confirming she is a woman, he refuses to kill her. Allow me to ask the loaded question. Does that make Toyohisa sexist? Well looking at the actions presented here the answer to that question would be yes and yet calling Toyohisa sexist just doesn’t sound right to me. After all he did thank the octobrist girl for helping to save his life and trusted her to help him in battle. I believe this does present a certainly nauce often overlooked by more overzealous types that attempt to label every person, word, action and home appliance as sexist in some nature. In my personal opinion I would deem that Toyohisa is not sexist but is instead following the traditions and beliefs of his clan which have been pounded into him from birth. Those traditions are indeed a product of a time less kind to woman but to Toyohisa these very things are his reality.

Imagine if you will that you walked into an alternate reality where fish swim in the sky instead of the sea. Wouldn’t that feel wrong? After all fish swim in the sea, it’s what makes sense, it’s what you have been taught from the beginning. Same goes for Toyohisa, in his world woman stay off the battlefield. That’s just his reality. If he came from a world which woman fought on the front lines it’s likely Toyohisa wouldn’t have any real problem with Joan being on the battlefield and would have beheaded her. So is Toyohisa in the wrong here, I say no. The only thing wrong here is that Toyohisa let a very dangerous individual live to fight another day when he could end her then and there. Otherwise Toyohisa was simply living up to his character as someone deeply entrenched in his beliefs. The only thing I find immensely weird here is that Toyohisa was confused over Joans gender and yet Yoichi he recognized as a man immediately? How very odd.

Posted on 22 November 2016 with categories: Anime Reviews, World Animation

Hooray, I’m finally back to this section after a while. I originally plan to review a more in-focus groups of animated films, like Korean movies, anthology movies, female-directed films, etc but now I have a different plan. The days that I cover all these will come, I promise. Instead, this time I want to highlight the very spirit of World Animation- take you around the world to check out a diverse set of animation techniques in wide ranges of genres. As I mentioned before the very purpose of this column is to recommend you readers to check out those movies as an alternative to anime and mainstream animated movies, so don’t feel discouraged to read on the review if you haven’t seen these movies. There will be mild spoilers on the theme of the movies, but I don’t see it as an issue should you guys decide to check out these films later.

The title this week: Strange Frame- Love & Sax sold me based on its premise alone. This is an …hold your breath here… indie musical psychedelic lesbian-themed sci-fi film using cut-out animation and upon reading this I know I have to check it out already. As the box office now is dominated by family-oriented animated movies with themes like “you’re different, but be yourself (Shrek, Ratatouile, Wreck-it Ralph…) or “we family will support each other forever” (the Croods, the Incredibles), something as weird and adult-oriented as this is certainly welcomed. So how the film itself fare, let’s get down to it.

The story of how this film got made is already a curious one. The story was written 10 years prior to its release by Shelley Doty and GB Hajim (and was directed by the latter) with their mutual love for sci-fi, especially works from John Valey and believe it or not, Shinichiro Watanabe. GB Hajim then continued the project by using his local Hawaii community (high school students no less) instead of going to big studio and it took them 7 years to finish the project. The story (if I could call that) follow the love story between Parker and Naia (a slave) and they form a band together. But then stuffs happen and Parker found out that she had been kicked out of the band, while Naia is under controlled by a ruthless record producer. Parker’s now lovesick and she attempts to save her lover from danger.

The settings are one of the real highlight of the film, it’s inviting enough to let us sweep up to its worldbuilding, but also ambiguous enough to still hint on the seedy parts laying underground of this world. Set in the 28th century after humanity has abandoned the polluted Earth and settled on several of Jupiter’s moons, humans then have to adapt to the new environment and as a result the physical appearance has been genetically modified as mutants. This allows the film to go wild on character designs, and they really go all out to create a chaotic and gritty world (with influenced a lot by Blade Runner and Cowboy Bebop). In this world, race, gender and sexual orientation seem to be non-issues and for me that is one of the most distinct and refreshing take on the future I have seen for a long time. At least we have probably one of the very first lesbian leads (someone please correct me if I’m wrong here) and those mutants people are all colored-people, which I personally happy to see that this film has balls to go that far.

Another unique thing about this feature is the technique they engaged. They use cut-out animation (think of the style of South Park) so that the visual animation sets itself out from 3D animation, while at the same time the technique supports the limited animation as they don’t have to animate every single frame. The best example for you to check out this technique is when the band playing their music, their heads are shaking while their bodies don’t move… For the most part I say the technique was used appropriately and moreover it carries certain charms that you can’t find it elsewhere. The music in the film, which is a mixture of jazz and rock, is phenomenal. I really love all the music played by the band, and the score, while goes overboard sometimes, is still solid and engaging.

The story is sadly the film’s weakest part. It always feels like the story is a patch-up of many unrelated stories, and really fall apart when you step back and think about it. As much as I like the chemistry between Parker and Naia, they both brought down by lousy dialogues, meaningless voice overs and the pacing is all over the place. Now that when I recall the actual plot, I can’t fill it pass three sentences because there’s not much into it. The love quest has been done thousand times before and unfortunately this story adds nothing new to the table, at the same time goes through as much genre cliché as possible. The story eventually comes together a bit at the end, but by then who really care for any development whatsoever?

But to be fair, nobody come to watch Strange Fame expecting for a good plot. What they are looking for is the trippiness and LCD-filled plot and boy did it deliver. There are many scenes where the movie just goes full wacko, and they keep going wilder and more bizarre as the story progresses. It also helps that the film’s visuals support that acid trip very well. The sequence where the leads are in drug, for example, contains full of weird and arresting visuals (really a love it or hate it moments I would add) and that high feeling is the feeling you can’t get out of after watching this.

Strange Fame proves to be an experience. Although the plot is as cliché and disjointed as possible, the dark, acid aesthetic, plus its innovative cut-out animation and its unbashed look on race and gender issues make it a movie that you all need to experience at least once. Just like a dream, in about a year time you will most likely forget about the plot of the film, but also like a dream you will never forget about the experience you encounter in your dream. Call this film a nightmare if you like.

Next one (probably next week), let head to South Korea where our comrade K-Off is heading for a world that slowly being eaten away by zombies. Stay tune.

Posted on 21 November 2016 with categories: 3-gatsu no Lion, Currently Watching:

Oh, the vitality of youth and first crush! It’s fun to see Hina’s under that crush spell and making a big fuss over Takahashi coming for dinner. As for Takahashi, he climbs up from being “an object of desire” from last few episode to a very straightforward and a bit serious boy now (anyone seen him smile once?) but his cold appearance is a nice contrast to Hina’s nervous sicken state. Well, enjoy it while it lasts girl because you ain’t gonna feel it again when you’re getting older.

It seems the show now covers the source material a bit faster now (2 and a half chapters per episode), but if that’s the case then I’m not totally on board with it. The main reason being each chapter is a self-contained story, even with chapter that begins as mundanely such as this one, being “Takahashi comes over for dinner and the family enjoy the night together”, it still manages to pull off a satisfying punch; that’s why breaking the chapter apart feels a bit disruptive to the flow of the story and could potentially lose its emotional earnest. This episode gets away with this issue this time, because of the continuity of Takahashi appearing in two chapters, but I’m not so sure if they can manage that next time. I would prefer they either stick with 2 chapters or they can speed up with 3 chapters per episode, but since I’m enjoying the deliberate pacing as it is now so I hope they won’t change that much.

As I mentioned above I very much enjoyed the chapter-style of the show so far, as each chapter manages to give a different angle to Rei and the people surrounding him. In contrast with the dark and sad story from last week, this episode shines with light touch and upbeat tone that actually signals the grow of Rei, even just a slightly bit. Firstly, through his honest-but-shabby explain to Takahashi, he’s actually able to reach him. Human interaction and connection is one of the most important fragment in our life, and sadly Rei is always out of touch with it. With just a little affection from Takahashi, it means a world to Rei, but it’s true that everyone would feel this happy when others understand exactly what you mean, especially someone who often self-doubt like Rei. Secondly, he’s now willing to take risks as well. With his old-self, for a shogi move that he feels too dangerous, he’d retreat instead; but now he’s heading over it to see if he can handle it. Although it costs him the match, I’d say it’s important for him to take that risk so that he could learn from his mistake. Finally but most importantly, he’s exploding over Harunobu’s comments, and that step is extremely important because it shows that he cares. As contrary to his fear last week, he actually cares for shogi and he cares for himself so he cannot stand to be talked down like that. At least he still feels something. You’ve grown Rei!

The supporting cast also works like a charm this week. For once, I feel Botoro’s (oh, I mean Harunobu’s) passionate advice from a shogi commentary no less as sincerely and heart-felt instead of annoying and I feel this is one of the strongest moments in this episode. He’s always the opposite to Rei in term of personality, as Rei always keeps his feeling inside himself, he is the one who says out loud what he feels and those advises are what Rei needed to hear (again and again in recorded tape or VCR that is). He really cares for his friend and even him appearing in later part to teach Hina and Momo shogi come off as necessary contrast to Rei’s stiff and machine-like teaching. Takahashi also shows his passionate side for baseball, and he fits like a glove to the rest of cast and his looking-up to Rei as a (sort-of) role model making them a weird (but nice) pair. Lastly, I know it isn’t much but look how shy and stiff Hina was at the beginning of the dinner, and then to her smile as she giving a piece of fruit to Rei and acting so herself in front of Rei, I feel a warm feeling inside me.

This episode might be a bit too light for 3-gatsu no Lion, but it’s by no mean a filler or even a mediocre episode. There’s still so much details to enjoy here and this episode is just so fun to watch. It’s great to see Rei has matured from time to time and seriously, who would say no to a shogi cat-warrior dance? Damn entertaining!

Posted on 19 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Flip Flappers

And here I thought I know what to expect from this show, yet I would never anticipate a Flip Flappers episode that is a direct continuity to the event of last week. In addition, this episode serves as a nice contrast to last week thematically as well. It only makes sense that after the episode concentrating about two girls performing same role, the next one will be about one girl who carries several roles, right?

Upon noticing that Iro-senpai has been changed in terms of her behaviors since their last Pure Illusion trip, and then later was confirmed by Hidaka that digging deeper into Pure Illusion level can alter the current world, Cocona doesn’t take it too well. It’s understandable in her case, since she’s fine as long as those crazy worlds are all fun and games. But when actions in these universes could potentially bring out consequences, it’s another matter altogether. The Pure Illusion world that Cocona got in this time carries out many characters that directly associated with her characteristics: that world is surprisingly grounded, mundane and completely isolated. That is when Papika multiple roleplaying really makes sense narratively to this episode. She represents the changes. Many roles she performs here aiming to assist Cocona to try something new and at the same time to have fun, demonstrated by many scenes like when the classmate boy who suggests her to skip class, or that emo girl who keeps pressing Cocona to open the drawer (for the meaning of that nail-clipper though, I have no idea but frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn), or trying new clothes. Ultimately, Cocona learns that many things might have been changed by Papika’s and her actions, but changing isn’t always mean bad. In Iro-senpai case, I’d definitely say that she’s happy with herself right now. Isn’t it satisfied enough as long as they bring the happiness to others?

Papika performing various characters also serve as a direct reflection to her own role in Cocona’s life. Take notice that all the roles she plays can be seen as Cocona’s personal and social relationship. She starts as Cocona’s little sister (so cute!), the insecure child who takes care for Cocona and always seeks her attention; then as a classmate boy who genuinely cares for her; then as various social friends who spend time with her, and finally as her sensual lover. All those roles serve as substitutes towards Cocona relationships in order to raise a central message: Where would the real Papika fit in? Is she her family, friend, or lover? Cocona’s for this whole episode trying to sort out her feelings about Papika through having fun times with those variables, and Cocona soon realizes Papika’s none of the above. She holds a special place in Cocona’s heart that raises above all other alternatives.

Moreover, the use of multiple roles also makes a whole lot sense in the context of identity and growing up. Never in any other shows that I’ve seen the constantly jabbed at the role of identity like this one. The first read is of course multiple personalities, and I don’t mean it in a disorder viewpoint. Not unlike the class S, yuri genre where they hold a belief that mutual crush between two girls is a necessary phase for girls to mature into normal, healthy woman; multiple personalities can be interpreted as an adolescent phase, where kids put up many masks of personalities to fully understand who they are, who they are not. The play on gender roles could be seen as a second read, as Papika freely transforms from one gender to another, indicating the break from societal norms towards what are expected for them to perform. Lastly and not really related to the multiple roles, but learning to take responsibility is also another theme that this episode going for, as Cocona learns exactly that from the consequences of her last Pure Illusion trip.

So again, what do we learn this week? Things seem to go badly for Yayaka, as we now know that her place amongst the organization is pretty shaky. And the twins are referred to as the amorphous children, which could mean that they are artificially created by the power of the amorphous. Now it’s an interesting concept if you ask me. It is also confirmed that the deeper level of Pure Illusion world could alter the present world, which could mean the stake is higher next time knowing they have real consequences, but frankly I’d have preferred much better if they don’t try to explain it at all. After all, this is one of those things (the willingness to keep us in the dark that is) that make Flip Flappers so charming and adventurous in a first place. Finally, Papika just mutters “Mimi” out of nowhere to the new sets of character we never heard from before (Mimi’s holding a child if you notice closely, and looks like the guy who is busy with his PC game is the person in Papika’s flashback- or is it Dr. Salt? Hard to tell) and in any ordinary anime that would be a recipe for nightmare kitchen, but it’s Flip Flappers for Christ sake so I know the show will find a way us care about those new characters.

As much as I see many layers toward this episode, as I mentioned before Cocona and Paprika alone can’t carry the episode on their own and this episode was just thisclose from being dragged out, and the lack of interesting visuals certainly won’t help. That doesn’t mean this episode is bad either, and my expectation for the show is still as high as ever, but this episode also isn’t among their best effort.

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